Easy tricks to get your little cutie smiling from head to toe.
Bliss on the brain
Don’t bother trying to keep things new and exciting—nothing pleases your baby more than knowing what’s going to happen next, says Jill Stamm, Ph.D., author of Bright From the Start. A regular nap schedule, a nightly cuddle and your singing “You Are My Sunshine” for the hundredth time will keep him content. Happiness is that simple when you’re tiny. (Hey, he hasn’t even heard of the economy yet.)
Sucking is your baby’s most instinctive survival reflex, designed to get him nutrition. But even after his tummy’s satisfied, his urge to suck may not be. That can make him cranky—unless you let him go to town on a paci or his fingers (both are perfectly okay). His sense of calm will be restored.
Your baby loves looking at you. Loves it. Loves it like you love looking at her (or Hugh Jackman, whatever). So flash her a goofy grin and open your eyes wide so she knows exactly what happy looks like. Play peekaboo. Lean in close and kiss her nose. Whatever gets your smiling face in her field of vision will be a thrill.
Stretching doesn’t just feel good to adults. Try this stretch for some all-over happy, from Nicole Netelkos, owner of Om Baby Yoga in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ: With your baby on her back on a blanket, gently extend her left leg and right arm out from her body. Next, hug her right knee up to her chest and gently move it toward her left side. Repeat the moves with the opposite limbs.
Calm tummies make for contented babies, so if yours howls like he’s in pain or draws his knees to his chest, especially after a meal, a stomachache could be taking its toll on his still-developing digestive system. To ease baby gas pains: Lay your baby facedown on your lap, so there’s pressure on his belly, and pat his back. Or lay him on his back and pedal his legs in the air. Aah, relief (sometimes stinky).
No matter how quickly you swoop in on a dirty diaper, your baby will probably end up with diaper rash at some point. But you can bring the smiles back quickly by applying a zinc oxide ointment to irritated areas; it heals the rash and forms a barrier against wetness to prevent another one. And really, who doesn’t feel happy with a warm, dry bum?
By 3 or 4 months, most babies are able to grab things, and get a kick out of clutching something in their little paws. A shockingly easy way to get a giggle: Hold something colorful and soft just in front of your baby, let her reach for it then hand it over.
Even pre-walkers get a kick out of putting their legs to the test: Hold your baby under his arms and bounce him between a mini—obstacle course of overturned laundry baskets and boxes; when he lands, let him put some weight on his legs before whisking him off to the next stop. It’s a just-wild-enough ride to put your baby in a good mood.
Even though your baby doesn’t have sore tootsies, she’ll still be delighted when you give her feet a massage, since your gentle touch feels good and the massage will relax her. For a quickie foot rubdown, apply gentle pressure to each of your baby’s tiny toes then rub the palm of your hand in a circular motion on her heels. Press your thumbs up and down across the soles of her feet, then finish up with a kiss for each big toe.